Baseball in June by Jake Young

In the moonlight,
each boy casts a shadow
on the field where two teams
play in the Tournament
of Champions. Dressed
in their uniforms,
knee-high socks, and lucky hats
stained with sweat,
the boys chew gum
or sunflower seeds,
spitting the shells
onto the dugout floor.
A new inning begins,
and the infielders run
onto the diamond. Their cleats
scrape the dirt,
kicking up dust that mixes
with the smell of leather,
grass, and French fries
from the food stand.
Their fathers—off-duty firemen,
construction workers, teachers—
all shout from the bleachers,
eager for the crack of a ball
against a bat, the footrace to first,
the satisfying slap
of a baseball caught
in the pocket of a glove.
This afternoon, at the bar,
I ran into George, who’d played
little league with me as a kid.
On my way out,
he told me I was the best
second baseman he’d ever seen—
“Nobody gave up their body
the way you did,” he said.
He remembered how I took
baseballs to my chest, my chin,
how I would lay out
and throw myself at the ball.
He asked if I’d kept my old glove,
the one his dad had oiled for me,
and fixed when the leather straps broke.
George’s dad had understood
I wouldn’t play with any other glove.
I told George I still have that mitt,
and he pointed at me
with his beer, and said, “I know.”
Some things we just can’t live without.

 

Jake Young received his MFA from North Carolina State University, and after a hiatus working at a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, currently attends the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Missouri–Columbia. His most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Miramar, Fjords Review, Poecology, pacificREVIEW, and The Commonline Journal. In 2014, Jake attended the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. He also serves as the poetry editor for the Chicago Quarterly Review.